9 things wearable tech needs to retain user engagement

fitbitsWearable technology is gaining widespread attention, thanks to a stream of new gadgets constantly hitting the market. The bubbling barrage includes fitness trackers and smartwatches, but this market has yet to achieve the sales growth rate we’ve seen from other mainstream devices like smartphones and tablets. That’s not to say the wearable tech market isn’t on its way to catching up.

According to a report from Juniper Research, the wearable tech market is expected to expand rapidly within the next few years.  The firm projects that the wearable tech market will hit $1.4 billion by the end of the year, and reach $19 billion by 2018. This is great news for OEMs who are investing heavily in wearable tech initiatives, but several things need to fall into place in order for this market opportunity to achieve its full potential.

Making a compelling product

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One obstacle aggravating the establishment of the wearable tech market is the longevity of the gadgets themselves. An interesting submarket has already emerged from consumers offloading used wearable tech pieces.

Checking eBay, there are thousands of Samsung Galaxy Gear smarwatches being sold, hundreds of Nike Fuel Bands and Jawbone Ups, and almost 2,000 FitBit trackers and accessories.

So why are people selling such relatively new devices?  In some instances, it could be the byproduct of former marketing schemes, where buyers receive a complimentary fitness tracker with the purchase of a new smartphone or tablet. If one’s not going to use the free gear, why not sell it?

A recent whitepaper from Endeavor Partners sheds some numbers on the issue, revealing that while one in 10 Americans over the age of 18 now owns an activity tracker or wearable tech, these devices fail to drive long-term user engagement.

According to the report, more than half of US consumers who have owned an activity tracker no longer use it, and a third of US consumers who have owned one stopped using the device within the next six months.

samsung galaxy gear smartwatch

According to Endeavor, in order to attain sustained user engagement, companies making these wearable devices need to meet a set of criteria.

9 things wearable tech needs to win

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Selectability / Adoptability

The clarity, relevance and uniqueness of the value proposition to consumers is essential for adoption; there are many similar choices in the market and consumers are generally not familiar with this category of devices and services, making selection a potentially stressful experience.

Design / Aesthetics

The majority or wearable devices are designed to be worn visibly, so it is important for manufacturers to design then in such a way that consumers would not mind wearing it everyday or for long periods.  Those that are able to fuse aesthetics and functionality are projected to be more successful than others.

Out-of-Box / Setup Experience

Some people are easily intimidated by new technology, so it is important to keep in mind that for mass adoption, wearable tech must be easy to use right out of the box.  People tend to stay away from products that require them to read a manual on how to start using a device. Intuitive design is key.

Fit / Comfort / Form Factor

A wearable device, especially those worn on the wrist, should comfortably fit the user, and not get in the way of performing daily activities.  The material itself should also be considered, as some materials can cause skin irritation.

Quality / Robustness

Most wearable tech devices are meant to be worn 24/7, which means durability is a necessity. Wearable gadgets should be designed to stand a high degree of wear and tear, and upgrades like water-proofing will help sway buyers.

User Experience

The user experience must be immediately intuitive, familiar and seamless. It must transcend the device, the mobile app, web-services, and overall support.

API / Integratability

Wearable tech should also be developer friendly, as this community is responsible for creating more useful and engaging apps.  Also, wearable tech should support APIs to share data and services in order to provide a compelling ecosystem for end users.

Lifestyle Compatibility

People are always on the move, so it is important for wearable tech to be ready when the user is.  This means these devices should have a long battery life and should be waterproof, so the user doesn’t have to remove the device as often.  If a device cannot be worn for more than a few hours because of its poor battery life, a user will soon abandon the device altogether.

Overall Utility

The purpose of a device is very important.  It’s one thing to track activities and present data in charts or visual presentations, but what does it all mean for the wearer?  If the main purpose of the wearable device is to help a person sleep better, or get the person motivated to work out and lose weight, the device should be able to contextualize for this purpose, not just present meaningless data.

photo credit: USCPSC via photopin cc
photo credit: Janitors via photopin cc

About Mellisa Tolentino

Mellisa is a staff writer for SiliconAngle, covering social and mobile news. She is fascinated by technology and loves imparting what she learns through her journey as a writer. Got a news story or tip? Send it to mellisa@siliconangle.com